We had a very productive meeting of the Interpreter Foundation board of trustees this morning and early afternoon. Happily, among many other good things, we were able to see the first delivered print copies of the Foundation’s newest book: Stephen D. Ricks, Paul Y. Hoskisson, Robert F. Smith and John Gee, eds., Dictionary of Proper Names and Foreign Words in the Book of Mormon. This is an important new contribution to Book of Mormon studies. At least some of you, I think, will find it of considerable interest:
“This book is the first ever comprehensive study of the nearly 400 proper names and foreign words in the Book of Mormon, the results of more than ten years of cooperative investigation by individuals with expertise in the languages of the ancient world. This dictionary contains an extensive examination of the etymologies of each of the names and foreign terms in the Book of Mormon.”
Sigh. In my annotated listing of the Thursday presentations at the 2022 FAIR Conference that just concluded (“It was a feast”), I failed to mention Gary Lawrence’s “How Comfortable Conversation’s about the Gift of Agency Lead to Interest in the Gospel.” One possible explanation for that failure is the fact that I didn’t hear it; I was obliged, instead, to take care of something out in the lobby, and I didn’t get back in time. I regret that, because I’m an enthusiastic fan of his important 2008 book How Americans View Mormonism.
As I mentioned in a prior blog entry here and as you are very likely aware by now, an Associated Press story has quite a bit of heat over the past couple of days, alleging that, in a case down in Arizona, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints deliberately covered up seven years of sexual abuse. This has proved extremely inspiring to many critics of the Church — some of whom have no real need for such inspiration.
The case in question, which — do I actually need to say this? — is appalling and deeply sad, is being pressed into service to demonstrate that the leaders of the Church don’t care about children or about sexual abuse. Some critics, linking to another theme that is a huge favorite in some circles, are using it to depict the Brethren as deeply corrupt and as concerned only with money. (How they went from the fairly representative fathers, neighbors, elders quorum presidents, bishops, mission presidents, stake presidents, and the like that they pretty much all recently were to the callous, mercenary monsters that some apparently believe they suddenly became upon being called to full-time Church service is, well, something of a mystery.)
A small handful of detractors of the Church seem to imagine that I have a personal, particular duty to respond to the case, to expound upon it, and, more specifically, to admit the Church’s wickedness and guilt in the matter. But, as I’ve pointed out already, I have no special insight into the case and no specific knowledge of it beyond what little I’ve read about it; although I’ve served as a bishop, I was the bishop of a ward of young single adults with no children or children’s programs. Moreover, I’ve mostly been in morning-to-night meetings over the past few days, starting with the opening of the FAIR conference on Wednesday morning and continuing through today’s Interpreter board meeting, which I chaired. Other committed members of the Church, though, have commented from positions of knowledge and insight on the Arizona story. Here are two helpful links that I’ve already shared:
“Are Publicized Abuse Cases Exceptional or Representative of Our Faith? Responses to key questions regarding the Associated Press report alleging attempts to cover up sexual abuse cases in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Of course, such calm little pieces are not going to satisfy certain folks or calm them down. I came across a wonderful meme yesterday — in, I think, a completely unrelated context — from the great economist and writer Thomas Sowell, whom I deeply admire. I think it quite relevant to at least some of the impassioned (and occasionally obscene) reactions that I’ve seen from a few critics of the Church to the links give above. “It is usually futile,” Dr. Sowell is quoted as saying, “to try to talk facts and analysis to people who are enjoying a sense of moral superiority in their ignorance.” Nevertheless, I press on. Here is another pair of links to reactions from people who actually know something about matters like the Arizona case:
“Perspective: I survived abuse. I worked for the church’s help line. The AP story broke my heart: No child should have to suffer what those sisters went through. Heroes are working to help stop this sickening abuse”
Kate Taylor Lauck is an investigative attorney who specializes in child abuse. She holds a master’s degree in national security strategies from the U.S. Naval War College and graduated cum laude from Georgetown Law in 2017.
Jennifer Roach earned a Masters of Divinity from the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and a Masters of Counseling from Argosy University. She is a licensed Substance Use Disorder counselor, a Clinical Mental Health counselor, and was an ordained Anglican Pastor prior to her baptism in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Here, too, are a few documents that you might find useful:
And, in the meanwhile, I share a trio of links here that, although they don’t specifically concern the Arizona case or even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, might help to put matters into perspective:
Now — please — don’t try to twist my supplying those three links into a pretense that I’m minimizing the gravity of sexual abuse by clergy or members of any religious organization. (Some, I know, will do precisely that, nonetheless. I could almost write their comments for them, they’re so tiresomely predictable.) Sexual abuse is a horrific evil and a crime, no matter who the abuser is, whether he or she is or is not a Latter-day Saint. I simply do not find the claim persuasive, though, that Latter-day Saint churches are exceptionally dangerous places for children. So far as I can see, there seems to be little or no actual evidence to support such an accusation.
We live in a pretty good world, on the whole, but religion and religious believers are trying their very best to ruin it. Here, for example, is yet another specimen of theistic horror that I’ve drawn from the Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File©. Please make sure, before reading it, that emergency medical help and smelling salts are readily available nearby: